Dubbed the Interchange Online Network, the service aims to tap Ziff's expertise to create a "next generation publishing platform."
"It's built on our background in special interest publishing and what we've learned in electronic publishing in the last decade," said Greg Jarboe, director of public relations. "We're taking a blank piece of paper and asking what an on-line service should really be. We know there are technological limitations, but, if you could really do it right, this is what it should look like."
Ziff is the latest entrant into the burgeoning industry, and its service will compete with Prodigy, America Online, CompuServe and Apple Computer's planned eWorld, among others.
The service will carry advertising, although it will not rely on ad revenue for profitability.
Ziff is talking to other publishers and has already signed deals with content providers including Reuters New Media, Grolier Electronic Publishing, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine and InfoWorld, a magazine published by Ziff archrival International Data Group. Ziff magazines will also participate in the service.
In a symbolic move designed to demonstrate that Ziff wants to lure other publishers to its platform, the new on-line service will be unveiled this week at Demo 94, a trade show in Indian Wells, Calif., sponsored by InfoWorld.
As part of the introduction, the company will change the name of its Ziff Desktop Information division to Ziff-Davis Interactive.
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dustry comes as a surprise since the computer information giant is already a content provider through its ZiffNet program available on CompuServe, Prodigy and eWorld. ZiffNet will continue to run on those services.
Ziff-Davis is the nation's leading publisher of computer magazines with titles including PC Magazine, PC/Computing, PC Week and Computer Shopper.
Interchange Online Network will be divided into special interest content areas. The first area, for example, will be computing and will include on-line versions of Ziff magazines and InfoWorld, as well as product and industry news, information on buying and using personal computers, and tips on establishing a home office.
While reading an on-line article in InfoWorld, users may see prompts referring them to an article in PC Week on the same subject or an on-line discussion.
"None of that is possible today," Mr. Jarboe said. ".|.|. What we see ourselves doing is expanding the market by pushing the envelope."
A Windows version will be available on a limited basis this spring and will be commercially available in the fall. Ziff will test advertising on the service but does not expect to generate ad revenue until 1995. An agency will be hired to develop ads, breaking this fall, promoting the service to consumers.
Ziff has a somewhat modest goal of attracting 200,000 subscribers in the first two years. Market leader Prodigy, by comparison, claims more than 2 million members.
The Ziff service will be a direct competitor with America Online, in particular, which has had the most success to date in luring publishers. America Online has formed strategic alliances with Time, The New York Times, Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, General Media International, Rodale Press and others.
"The Ziff service is specifically for publishers, and in many ways, it's better than America Online," said one industry observer. "Ziff is going to blow the other on-line services' publishing components out of the water."
Prodigy in recent months has signed deals with Cox Newspapers, Times Mirror Co. and Advertising Age. CompuServe's publishing partners include Family Handyman and U.S. News & World Report.M